Every Nomad’s dilemma – Sell or Store your belongings?

Every Nomad’s dilemma - Sell or Store your belongings?Every Nomad’s dilemma – Sell or Store your belongings?

It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves many times. Just days ago, now back among our furnishing in our new home in Spain, we had the same conversation. I’ll get to that in a minute.


A recap:

Back in 2014 we put our stuff in storage, rented out our condo in Montreal, and started travelling full-time. Back then storing our belongings made sense because we didn’t know how things would work out. Would we want to return home after a year or two of travelling? We paid $250 Canadian/month to keep our things in storage.

We ended up loving our new life of travel and kept our things in storage until 2017. That was the year our tenants decided that they no longer wanted to rent our condo. Knowing by then that we’d never want to live in Montreal again, we sold the condo and had our things shipped to Croatia where we had just settled into an apartment. That cost $6,700 Canadian.

A year later, in 2018, we had to leave Croatia. We got rid of some of our stuff (friends, charity, and through facebook) but we kept our most valued belongings. We put them in storage in Zagreb where it cost us $150 Canadian/month.

Just a few weeks ago (early November 2020) a truck brought our things to Spain from Zagreb. Cost? $4,000 Canadian. We now have all our beautiful furniture, paintings and other valuables, lots of extra clothes, linens, pots and pans, dishes etc. We haven’t had to buy much for our new home.

Total costs of storage and moving over the last 6 years = $24,350
Total value of our inventory = approx. $40,000


From a purely financial perspective

Looking at the above numbers (and I just bothered calculating it now as I was writing this post) storing and moving our belongings was not a good financial decision. I knew that already but the numbers prove it out. From a purely financial point of view, the value of our belongings (approx $40,000) is inconsequential – it’s a sunk cost. Whether we kept our stuff or not, we weren’t going to get that money back (I guess we could have had a lot of garage sales but we would have made pennies on the dollar). The $24,350 that we paid to maintain and move that inventory would have been more than enough to replace what we needed  – maybe not with equal quality replacements but it would have replaced everything we needed to live in our new home.

You can look at it from another angle. We paid $24,350 for the $40,000 worth of inventory that we currently have sitting on our apartment. That sounds more like an attempt at justifying the expense than good financial sense however…


what to do with things collected while traveling


BUT how about sentimental value?

I love buying something original from somewhere I go. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it usually isn’t. I love having those memories of my trips and have collected a lot in my lifetime.

So what do you do with those things when you go Nomad?

Some person said to me “Why don’t you sell your things on Craigslist?”.

Really? How much is someone going to pay for my Sumatran water buffalo? $20?? Or my African masks or drums or my collection of seashells? Or the posters we picked up in in Prague or Budapest?

The thing is you’ll never get the value for these items that you have in your heart and you’ll never be able to replace them. And if you’re like me you won’t want to get rid of those things in the first place.

If you’re like me you’ll want to keep and store some of your mementos.


Every Nomad’s dilemma - Sell or Store your belongings?


Back to our conversation…

Last Saturday we were having our morning coffee, sitting on our leather couches and looking around us. It had taken 2 weeks to unpack and organize everything. It all felt somehow anticlimactic though.

We’re happy to have our beautiful furnishings around us. We have a lot of things we love. But when we evaluate the cost, the organization, and the trouble (2 weeks ago I was hauling a couple of huge libraries and I still have the bruises and scars to prove it) we wonder if it was worth it.

I love seeing our favorite travel souvenirs around the apartment. It reminds me of some of our early trips. I’m actually looking forward to travelling again so I can collect some more things from places we go. We’re also happy having many things we invested in: good kitchenware, great linens, curtains etc…these would all be things we’d be buying right now if we hadn’t kept them.

On the other hand: we look at some of our big furnishings and regret our decisions. What were we thinking? We shouldn’t have kept our two couches, there’s really no sentimental value there and couches are an easy thing to replace. Our 2 huge libraries are beautiful…but that was also a mistake. We could have replaced them anywhere. Same goes for our heavy dining room table and the 4 chairs that come with it.

In fact, keeping our furniture was a mistake. They took up 90% of the space and cost of storage yet they’re the easiest things to replace.


Every Nomad’s dilemma - Sell or Store your belongings?


Nomadic Life…and if we had to do it all over

It’s easy to say we’d change things if we had a chance to do it all over again. As I said at the top, we didn’t know when we first started travelling how long we would be travelling full-time. Keeping our belongings was a backup in case we decided that a life of travel wasn’t for us. And then, once we had all our things in storage we were stuck with them.

But, in hindsight, here is what we would have done:

We would have gotten rid of our furniture prior to leaving Montreal back in 2014. We would have sold, donated and given it all. Storing/moving that stuff accounted for most of the expenses we incurred over the last 6 years. Not only that, these things restricted us when looking for a new place: “the living room is too small. Where would we put the two couches?”. In the end, the furniture was a burden and really didn’t have any real sentimental value. We regret having kept that stuff.

We would have kept the things that had sentimental value: the paintings, masks, statues, the fridge magnets, my various collections…now in Spain, it’s those things that we’re happy we’ve kept. So we would have needed a storage space – but it would have been a much smaller space and we would have paid a fraction of what we paid.


Another Opinion

I asked my mother her opinion. She’s lived in Africa, Asia and now in Mexico. She’s moved around all her life and unlike us she hasn’t moved her belongings with her. She’s done well on a budget, often buying things 2nd hand in new destinations and always making them look beautiful. She wouldn’t do it any other way. Her one regret: the many beautiful things she picked up in different places that she had to leave behind.

So we are on different ends on the spectrum to how we did things but we both agree that it is the things that have sentimental value that, at the end of the day, are worth keeping.


Every Nomad’s dilemma - Sell or Store your belongings?


The Future?

We love our apartment in Nerja and hope to stay here for a long time. We’ll always do a lot of travelling but will do so with a base in Spain. But if we do move one day, we’re going to leave behind our furniture and just take the accessories: our souvenirs, our linens, curtains, towels, kitchen stuff, my bike… We’ve learned from our experience.


What do you think? Sell or Store your belongings?


Related: Why we chose Nerja as our new home in Spain (and why it’s perfect for the times)

Related: Bootsnall on What to do with all your stuff while you’re gone



  1. Ahhh this is an issue and conversation we have had with each other a LOT, given our nomadic lifestyle. SO enjoyed reading this….

    When we first left the U.S. for Nicaragua we got rid of most of our belongings but had some things shipped there, such as my paintings, our albums, our piano and then of course while we were already sending, then why not add the couch, the table etc…. The interesting thing was that the shipment did not come for four months and in those four months we managed JUST fine without all that stuff and when it did arrive, much of what we opened we wondered aloud “what the hell were we thinking?” Who needs all of this? We are happier with less stuff… and thus began the lesson of non attachment.

    From there to Asia and this time we sold everything with the house! And we were so happy with just back packs and nothing else! That was a key learning moment. So moving forward yes furniture is replaceable, almost anything is, and so we did it your moms way.. boy have we bought the same things over and over again (salad spinner, rebounder, juicer etc) and the only things we pay to transport from country to country are photographs and paintings of mine and a few other sentimental items. At the end of the day, it is all “stuff” and we have learnt to value experiences over stuff.


    1. Great comment. Yes, we all learn along the way. Funny that you started out as we did (ie. bringing your stuff).
      But it’s just like the way we travelled: we started out with a couple of big backpacks and a couple of other bags in our first year, went to large rolling bags year 2…then year 3 we were down to carry on-sized rolling bags. We can now easily travel with next to nothing.
      So it’s all a learning process but things I wish we had known at the time.

  2. it must be a big question. you know what you’d do if you did it again. furniture you can replace as you say. i stored stuff for three years here. it didnt really cost me but i probably wouldnt do it again I think.

    1. If you have friends or family then I might reconsider Andy. I think, looking back, it’s the financial aspect that makes me regret our decision.

  3. When we sold our house in 2017, we bought one way tickets to Europe with no idea of when we’d return. We knew though that at some point we would return, but we didn’t know what that return would look like, i.e. buy a house, rent an apartment? We sold almost all of our furniture because we had no idea if what we had would fit in a new place. What we kept was our king bed and bedroom furniture because our thinking was that no matter where we landed, we’d need to furnish a bedroom. We kept our TV’s, dishes, linens, etc., and like you, we kept what was most sentimental to us. Our storage locker was 10 x 13 because we parked our car inside the unit, so that gives you an idea of how much stuff we actually had room for. As you know life took a wonderful turn and we ended up returning to the US after 6 months and everything was waiting for us.

    In the end, I think it doesn’t matter what the cost was. You and Lissette have found your home, you’re comfortable and you’re happy. I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.

  4. Glad to see all your shells stayed intact 😉
    We moved from one country to another many times over the years and trained ourselves not to attach to “things”. Other than clothes and essential electronic tools, we try to sell/give away everything before moving. A few sentimental things were left at our parents’ places, but honestly we don’t even remember what they are now. It feels pretty light not to own anything material, especially as full time travellers.

    1. I think that’s wise. If I could backtrack back 10, 15 years I would have known not to buy high end stuff…because in the end you end up making decisions based on that. If it had all been Ikea crap decisions would have been so much easier…

  5. Funny thing Frank! We are going through the same thing as we walk around the house deciding on what to take and what not to ship to Spain. We have many antique pieces that are family heirlooms one or two of them that will arrive with us, the others that will break my heart to leave behind as they have been with us and have travelled to new homes and across the country too. But in the end at this stage of our lives we’ve realized, most of what we have in our 2700 square foot home are in fact material things that we would be shipping to Spain. It’s “stuff”! What’s important though I think is to have a few things to give you some comfort in a new country so your new place has some familiarity. We want to continue our travels with Spain as our base as well..we will ship personal items and some comfort food so to speak. We will get stuff along the way as needed.

    1. Thanks for the comment. You know, it really depends. You guys are coming straight to Spain. It’s a classic move. We were nomads with uncertain plans and in the end ended up travelling Nomad for 6 years and undergoing 2 major moves. That really drove up the cost. I totally understand about bringing stuff that brings you comfort. Also, if it’s a straight move, at least you have all your stuff and you don’t have to do a lot of shopping in a strange land.
      Look forward to hearing where you end up in Spain.

  6. Hello Frank and Lissette,

    I came across your blogs and I read them with great interest. At the moment we are living in Victoria, BC and we are planning to travel in southern Europe starting late spring or early summer, next year. We had the same discussion about our belongings. We decided to sell our apartment and take with us only the most valuable items, sentimentally and some of them financially. It came down to a financial decision. We just could not justify the cost of shipping and the taxes. I hope you enjoy your new house. All the best!


    1. Always nice hearing from fellow Canadians.
      There are a lot of variables, including how much time things will be in storage or how many moves you might make. And if you’re like us, there are a lot of uncertainties that you can’t plan for. In teh end, in our case, I think getting rid of the big stuff would have been the wise choice. The paintings, posters, statues, masks etc could be kept with friends or family.
      Good luck with your travel plans

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